The authorities unleashed a brutal campaign of repression when a mass movement for fair elections swept the capital in July. More than 1,600 people were detained after a violent crackdown on the peaceful demonstration. In September, the government announced its intention to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA) with new security laws.
Najib Tun Razak began his third year as Prime Minister. Although he had until March 2013 to call a general election, preparations by officials signalled plans for a poll in early 2012. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim faced prison and a ban from political office as his politically motivated trial on criminal sodomy charges neared its end.Top of page
When the Bersih (“Clean”) movement held a march in Kuala Lumpur in July, 1,667 peaceful protesters were arbitrarily arrested and temporarily detained. Police beat protesters and fired tear-gas canisters directly into the crowds, injuring protesters including at least two opposition members of parliament. Before the rally, the authorities arrested dozens of people for alleged involvement in Bersih, which the government declared illegal on 2 July.
In a surprise announcement in September, Prime Minister Najib said his government would seek to repeal the ISA. However, repeal was deferred until March 2012, and the government planned to replace the ISA with a law which would likewise allow for indefinite detention without trial. In November, the authorities detained another 13 people under the ISA.
The government suppressed criticism by requiring licences for publications and threatening critics with criminal prosecution under the Sedition Act.
People continued to be subjected to systematic torture and other ill-treatment through judicial caning, a punishment imposed for more than 60 penal offences.
In August, the Australian High Court ruled that a bilateral agreement to swap refugees between Australia and Malaysia was invalid. Under the plan, Australia was to send to Malaysia 800 asylum-seekers who had reached Australia by sea. In exchange, Australia would have resettled 4,000 refugees from Malaysia. The ruling prohibited Australia from deporting the asylum-seekers on the basis that Malaysia, which had not ratified the UN Refugee Convention, lacked sufficient legal guarantees for refugee protection (see Australia entry).
The Malaysian government did not publish statistics on death sentences or executions. However, the authorities rejected calls to impose a moratorium on executions, and Malaysian courts regularly imposed new death sentences.
In March, Malaysia’s Cabinet decided to accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC); however this remained pending.